Switzerland on Thursday ordered an immediate freeze on any assets that may belong to defiant Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi and his entourage, the Swiss foreign ministry said in a statement.
“The Federal Council (government) condemns the violence used by the Libyan strongman against the people in the strongest terms,” the ministry said in a statement.
“In view of the developments the Federal Council has decided to block with immediate effect any possible assets of Muammar Qaddafi and his entourage in Switzerland,” it added.
The Swiss government said it wanted to avoid any misappropriation of Libyan state property that might still be in Switzerland.
Switzerland has been locked in a bitter standoff with Libya’s ruling Qaddafi family since the brief arrest of a son of the Libyan leader, Hannibal, in a Geneva hotel in July 2008 on suspicion of assaulting two of his domestic workers.
Among other measures, the dispute triggered economic sanctions by Libya including the mass withdrawal of Libyan assets from the Alpine country’s prized and secretive banking sector.
The Swiss central bank told AFP on Thursday that total Swiss banking relations with Libya amounted to 613 million Swiss francs, with an additional 205 million francs in paper or fiduciary operations.
That compared with 5.7 billion and 812 million francs respectively in 2007, before the diplomatic spat.
The figures relate to overall commitments involving Libyan assets, not necessarily to funds linked to the Qaddafi family that might be blocked.
The move came amid growing international condemnation and diplomatic moves against violence in Libya, after Qaddafi reacted to the most serious challenge to his 41-year rule with deadly force.
At least 640 people have died according to the International Federation for Human Rights.
On Monday, Berne condemned “targeted violence” by Libyan authorities on protestors and broke off a key step in resolving the bilateral dispute under a tentative agreement with Tripoli last year.
It suspended preparatory work on an international arbitration tribunal that the Swiss say they were forced to accept in exchange for the release of two Swiss businessmen retained in Libya.